Choirs carry out with the two Singing Christmas tree at an initial Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., native a vault year. (Photo courtesy of an initial Baptist Orlando via RNS)


WASHINGTON (RNS)—There room no sheep or goats or even llamas at the resources Christian Center, a 3,000-seat Assemblies of God megachurch in Sacramento, Calif., this Christmas season. Not also a pair of church members dressed up in a camel suit.

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And for the an initial time in 63 years, no huge Singing Christmas Tree.

“Tonight would have been our opening night,” claimed Pastor rick Cole on Dec. 4. “It’s a yes, really weird feeling.”


Large-scale Christian shows, including those special a to sing Christmas Tree—40- or 50-foot-tall structures holding thousands of choir members—have been staples at huge congregations like funding Christian for decades. They attract in hundreds of visitors who otherwise could never concerned church, and also bring joy and also a feeling of neighborhood to cast and congregation members alike.

But this year, COVID constraints make such events virtually impossible to pull off.

Last year, 25,000 people pertained to see 11 resources Center to sing Christmas Tree performances. Between 300 and 400 civilization are usually component of the production, which includes choir members, actors and a host of backstage staff and also musicians that play in a specially developed orchestra pit in prior of the stage.


“We room disappointed,” claimed Cole. “It’s disappointing because that every human on the planet right now. The is the nature of the moment we room in.”

Finding ways to work roughly the pandemic

First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., is getting approximately the lack of in-person performances featuring two Singing Christmas Trees—each about 45 feet high from basic to star and also able to hold around 200 singers and also tens of hundreds of Christmas lights—by filming a series of brief Christmas-themed videos come be presented at services during December, said Jonathan Hickey, the church’s an imaginative arts director.

In Portland, Ore., the yearly community singing Christmas Tree, which began in 1962, will stream virtual from Dec. 15 to new Year’s Day, with a mix of clips from past shows and also stories indigenous the to sing Christmas Tree’s history.


At the very least a few Singing Christmas Trees will go on through the display this year, with some adaptations.

Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, Ga., has actually moved its to sing Christmas Tree from the church’s sanctuary come a surrounding park this year, said Thomas Sunderland, associate pastor of music and media.

Prompted in part by COVID-19 and also by a major renovation that the church’s building, Sunderland said, the to sing Christmas Tree will certainly be smaller, with no star, one much less level and 70 singers, down from the normal 100 or so. They will certainly be 6 feet apart, and also some will certainly stand next to the tree, quite than top top it.


Sunderland claimed that having the tree outside will assist limit the threat of spreading COVID. The audience will also be socially distanced.

“In the end, God spoke to my love to perform the Tree,” he created in one email, while admitting that things could change between now and also Dec. 10, as soon as the an initial of three performances is scheduled.

“God might shut the all under tomorrow,” Sunderland said. “It belongs to him, not me, not our music ministry no one our church.”


Hope to return following year

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A singing Christmas Tree power in 2014 at Belhaven college in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo courtesy of Belhaven college via RNS)

At Belhaven college in Jackson, Miss., whereby the first Singing Christmas Tree was held in the 1930s, a absence of rehearsal—and personnel—was the difficulty with holding it this year.

None of the choirs top top campus have sung together this year because of the threat of COVID-19, claimed Belhaven President roger Parrott. And the school’s students to be sent home at Thanksgiving. Happen them back to carry out the to sing Christmas Tree, hosted outdoors annually at the school’s football stadium, make no sense.

He really hopes the to sing Christmas Tree will be back next year, and also in the meantime the takes proud in the method church communities roughly the country have run through Belhaven’s invention.

“I’ve always said, if we franchised the idea, we can have do a the majority of money through now,” Parrott added.


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